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Greenwich Village Sunday

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Greenwich Village Sunday

Published ca. 1960s

Exploration of the colorful counterculture of Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. Narrator: Jean Shepherd. Director, producer and screenwriter: Stewart Willensky. Beat life-avant-garde poetry and music: Charles Mills.

Run time 12:29
Producer Wilensky (Stewart)
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, C


Synopsis from distributor's release sheet is as follows:

Though somewhat removed in time from the day of the Indians and the separate Colonial Village it once was, Greenwich Village is still a "happy hunting ground," a place of the spirit. For more than fifty years it has been home and studio to nonconformist artists, writers, actors. Bohemian, beat or just plain citizen, the Village is dear to its loyal residents.
Sundays the center of the Village is the circle in Washington Square Park, where banjos, guitars, bongos and singers clamor in harmony -- sweet or strong -- where Villagers meet old friends and make new ones; and tourists and visitors join in the friendly throng.
Twice yearly since the first decade of the century, the world's largest outdoor art show is held. Here "abstract expressionists, romantic idealists, drippers and splatterers, the best and the worst, can be found."
Vivid color and original music for recorder, guitar and bass assist the camera in this creative study. Here we see the remaining old hidden gardens, secret treasures, old world customs such as the Festival of San Gennaro. By day this is a glory of floats, parades, displays of exotic food. At night it is ablaze with the lights and mystery of the old country. For those who wish, there are the espresso cafes filled with smoke and the constant talk of art, politics and love; and resounding with the tempo of jazz and the declamations of the poet as he beats out his own rhythm in impassioned exhortations to life.

New York City Bohemians lifestyles counterculture 1960s street musicians beats beatniks Italian Americans


Reviewer: jwpnyc - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 25, 2015
Subject: Captures a Time but does not Define It
Actually a bizarre little short. It features the Village in 1961. It was a time when Robert F. Wagner was Mayor. He was a man defined by a lot of Villagers as a "nothing" (a suit or party hack) who had turned on his mentor, Carmine De Sapio the Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall. The year following this film this same Washington Square was home of the "Beatnik Riot" that resulted in October of 1961 when Wagner's Park Commissioner, Newbold Morris banned singing in the fountain of Washington Square. On October 10th, 1961, the NYPD arrested ten individuals and cleared out the park.

Lois Nettleton, who plays the debutante in this short was an actress who came to NY to study at the famous Actor's Studio, by way of Chicago - where she won the dubious title of Miss Chicago 1948. She was lonely in NY and she was the first call in to Jean Sheppard's late night radio program when it debuted in 1956. She became a regular on that show, known as "the Caller." They actually had a lot in common. "Shep" also was originally from a small Illinois town outside of Chicago. They wound up getting married. Shep did a lot of not terribly cool, but very popular portraits of "Beatnik Culture" in the 50's that made every hipster cringe. Some of them are very funny in a later historical context and also provide the time-place real time of events that were being covered. There was a real tension at this time between the old guard Italians in the Little Italy remnants of the West Village and the "Dirty Beatnik, Commies" - etc. But, much of this was because beat culture was pro-civil rights and establishments like "Cafe Society" broke the color barrier in cabaret entertainment (see Nina Simone). It was this friction that lay behind the political impetus for the Beatnik "riot" which was in fact instigated by Parks Dept. change of policy at the behind closed door request of the Mayor, who was in the Caribbean on vacation when the crackdown was planned. The ACLU came to the Beantniks' defense, and the Parks Dept. and Wagner wound up backing off. There are posters here who conflate a lot of this with the gay culture of the Village also being a target, and they are right to an extent. But, the political pressure from all evidence came more from the "Hunt and Game Club" types against the "Beatnik Kids, sandals and the African American artists and musicians who were welcome and respected by them in poetry, music and art. This is the kind of incredible find that provides the real data of time and place that makes the Internet Archives the treasure it is.- JwPhillips NY 2015 -
Reviewer: Charlie Heinz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 22, 2013
Subject: Lois Nettleton was the prim lady in this film.
The prim lady travelling through Greenwich Village was Lois Nettleton, who was one of Jean Shepherd's wives. I liked this film and recall my days there and everywhere else in New York City in the early 1960s. Thanks so very much for sharing this video. :)
Reviewer: ThinkingAmerican - favoritefavoritefavorite - May 20, 2007
Subject: Soothing and Innocent
Did you run out of Prosac? No worries, just watch this short film. It'll smoothe away all the wrinkles of your worried mind. It's images of Greenwich Village in the 1960's seems very authentic. The Village is portrayed as innocent (which it mostly was) and varied (which it most certainly was). Except for a brief beat poem, the sound of the short is a combination of the narrators calming voice and a bizarre (yet soothing) jazz-flute and guitar soundtrack.

Highs: It could relax a comodities trader.

Lows: Not really gripping.
Reviewer: rasputin2 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 11, 2005
Subject: Deb's Nostalgie de la Boue
This interesting film-- whom was it aimed at?-- depicts a young debutante as she dallies dangerously on the fringes of beat society.

She wears a demure striped separate set with a peter pan collar, telling us that she is from "somewhere else", and her parents would likely kill her if they knew she was rubbing elbows with this artsy riffraff.

A Neil Diamond-looking tough with a greasy D.A. and a folk guitar on his back seems to be stalking her all over the Village. They never quite hook up, though.

No mention, of course, is made in this 1960 film, that Greenwich Village was a mecca for gays and heroin addicts-- even in 1960. A black guy rates a moment in this film's spotlight-- but no queers!

It's interesting to me how, even though Greenwich Village was meant to be "artsy", that everyone's clothing in this film is so drab-colored... most people are wearing neutrals and monochromes. No wonder "The Sixties" had to happen.
Reviewer: 412Filmstudent - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 22, 2005
Subject: Shep
If you don't know about Jean Shepherd, check out his (now vintage) radio shows.
Reviewer: Marysz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 1, 2004
Subject: A vanished Greenwich Village
In this film we follow a prim young woman in white gloves as she explores Greenwich Village on a Sunday afternoon. She walks off the Fifth Avenue bus at Washington Square and straight into a "hootenanny." This is a corny, but charming look at the Village in the early sixties in the transitional period between the "beat' generation and the rise of the later sixties counter-culture. The best scenes are when we actually hear the folksingers singing bluegrass tunes around the Washington Square fountain and the beat poet reading in a grubby coffeehouse. These scenes have real documentary value. The film's use of actors to try to create a story gives it an amateurish feeling, but that same amateurism is what also gives the film its charm. It was nice to see the old Italian Greenwich Village with the street market and the stickball and bocce players, who are now long gone. The Greenwich Village portrayed here looks like a shabby, tolerant place where ordinary people could afford to live. Alas, that is no more.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavorite - December 21, 2003
Subject: Ooh, look at all them hippies!
This laid-back early-60s film shows us street life in Greenwich Village on a Sunday. We see such things as sidewalk art displays, folksinging in the circle, and beatniks reciting poetry. This definitely brings back a memorable time and place, giving us a glimpse of the birth of the 60s counterculture. One rather silly aspect of the film is a prim woman in a striped dress and little white gloves who appears in almost every scene and reacts to things as if she was on Mars (though with a smile on her face). This film could have perhaps had more content to it, but then it wouldnt have been as laid back as a Greenwich Village Sunday.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.
Reviewer: Languid - favoritefavoritefavorite - September 1, 2003
Subject: Great Pictures, Dull Narration
I was excited when I read that the great Jean Shepherd was the narrator. He was among the hippest men in America in 1960. However in this film all he does is read the rather square travelogue type script and that's disappointing. However I really enjoyed the scenes shot in Washington Square Park where the folkies hung out singing their silly songs. The beat poet Ted Joans was kind of cool too.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 8, 2003
Subject: I'm hep to that!
An interesting overview of 1960's New York (more specifically Greenwich Village). This film has the mood down pat, with the banjos, bongos and the hip language of the period. It takes us on a tour of everyday practices then (oh, maybe it hasn't changed) taking us through art exhibitions on the street, men playing bocce (sigh) and other sights. Although pretty much filled with interesting locals, I REALLY with they didn't include the obviously eyesore actors, who stick out like a sore thumb. But other then that, a highly enjoyable film! Reccomended!
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